What does love look like?


A couple of weeks ago Carol and I visited with the good folks at the Hemley Road Church of Christ. We are always so encouraged and built up in our faith to just be with them and observe 1st century Christianity up close. One of my experiences was on Thursday morning at the food give away.

I arrived at the Civic Center in Bayou La Batre to find the parking lot full of cars. I drove to the side of the building, found a place and entered through the service entrance. When I entered I saw a long line of people who were waiting to have their ID’s checked and then receive a large box of Hungry Man dinners. The Mobile County Bar Association was present offering pro bono legal work for the citizens. Medical personnel were there checking blood pressure, trying to get a snapshot of the health of those who wanted the service.

Each week a semi trailer of food is distributed. This week about 400 family units received about 1700 meals. They also received tooth brushes, tooth paste, and other essentials most of us take for granted. Perhaps 30 volunteers helped in the effort. The local jail’s trustees, dressed in their horizontal striped black and whites carried cases of food out for people, ladies at a long table checked the necessary paper work so food and other supplies would go to those who most need it.

I studied the faces of those people in line to get food. Most of them entered the line showing no emotion. Their faces were those hardened by days in the sun on shrimp boats, working in ship yards, and a history of fighting for survival in a place where drug abuse and alcoholism is as common as the sun. Their faces did not reflect hope, just a determination to survive. Most would force a faint smile as they said “Thank you” when they received their allotment of food.

A series of storms topped off by Katrina, the Gulf Oil Spill, and stupid government policy has forced this once thriving fishing community to its knees. Will they ever recover seems to be the question of most people I spoke to. It is difficult to be optimistic when you and most of your friends are unemployed and only a fraction are eligible for any benefits.

When the local network affiliates come from Mobile or Pensacola, or CNN, and PBR come calling to find how and why all this is going on in south Mobile County they find that the Hemley Rd Church of Christ is responsible. It is an amazing story of God’s faithfulness to a hand full of people who believe He can do anything.

Only 4 1/2 years ago they were less than a half-dozen common folks who together decided that they would make a difference in hurting people’s lives. They were distributing what ever they could find that the people needed. They started to repair storm damaged houses and people began to come and help. Soon, they decided they would worship together and they met at Hardees, the Odd Fellows Hall, on the beach, and finally in their own building. They have gone from nothing to being the leading church in the area, touching lives both for time and eternity.

Not only have they fed thousands, repaired almost 500 homes, given tons of bedding, furniture, and large appliances, they have also baptized people regularly who have decided to follow Jesus.  In God’s providence, funds, goods, and volunteers have come to help from all across the U.S. Not only church of Christ people but perhaps a dozen or more other groups continue to be staunch supporters both with funds and people on the ground.

Recently a church gave a 28 passenger people mover, another church purchased a 2010 van, and a local denominational church opened its heart and check book to help them help the community they serve well into the next year. The stories are too numerous for this format. Again and again, when the funds are almost completely gone and bills are due God supplies every need and more. I had not seen this kind of faith first hand in a long time. I’ve read about it, but when you see it up close and personal there is no denying that God is faithful to those who are depending only upon Him.

Carol and I spent a week working, worshiping, laughing, watching, and being amazed at these simple and unlikely hero’s of the faith as they feed the hungry, heal the broken-hearted, love the unlovable, and give out of their poverty in Jesus name.

Want to see some first century Christianity at work in 2010? Drive down to south Mobile County, Alabama and ask someone where the Christians are. They are easy to find.

Agape’

Royce

 

Advertisements

The Little Church that Could…


If you see your sister church with more kids than the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, temporary BP workers that need transportation to their jobs on the coast, and many, many who need a ride to church on Sunday and Wednesday, and you say to her, “Fill it up! and Happy Motoring!” and your spare van sits idle and doing no good, what have you accomplished?

The Hemley Road Church of Christ in Bayou La Batre, Alabama desperately needs another good van. They have a good one and two that are pretty much used up. In addition to their regular and ongoing need for transportation they are now trying to help members and neighbors get to their temporary jobs. Many of the citizens in Bayou La Batre either don’t have a vehicle or can’t afford to keep it on the road.

The University Church in Shreveport gave them a nice van not many months ago but it is essential to their ministry that they have one more good, solid van that needs no work to make it serviceable. If you know of any possibilities please comment and I’ll get the message to the folks in Bayou La Batre.

The town is getting lots of attention. Daphne German was on CNN last night and will be on the Today Show on Thursday a.m.  The networks are swarming the coastal area looking for a scoop. We are glad for the publicity for the work there.

Many naysayers wrote this little church off long ago, others hinted there was no way they could make it, but they have trusted God and He has provided. And, He will provide this time too.

Thanks for your consideration and prayers.

For Jesus,
Royce

Royce

On Mission with God


The humble saints who worship at the Hemley Road church of Christ will probably never set foot in a foreign country. The economy in Bayou La Batre, Alabama is awful with unemployment at many times the rest of the nation. They are truly living by faith, trusting God day by day to provide the means to run church vans to gather children and those without transportation, pay utilities, and feed the hungry, etc. How then can this little flock carry out the great commission given to all believers?

They have been faithful with what they have been given and without realizing it have become a model of church ministry. They are salt and light in their community, loving the down and out folks, rebuilding homes and lives, feeding the hungry, and loving those who need love most. And, they are touching the world.

I noticed with admiration that soon after they became a local church they started to give to World Radio, helping to get the good news about Jesus to a needy world. Recently, their ministry became international. No, they have not been on a mission trip across the sea, God brought Bolivia to them.

When Carol and I visited Hemley Rd Easter weekend three men from Bolivia attended services. They had recently moved to Bayou La Batry to work in a sea food packing plant. None of the three men spoke English. So, they communicated with the universal language of love. Smiles and hugs, shared meals, and rides to Wal-Mart were some of the ways they loved these foreigners. At once they started to imagine ways to reach them with the good news about Jesus and they have.

One of the men, Roberto, was recently baptised. This past Sunday when I spoke at the church a young hispanic man stood with me and interpreted my message to those in the audience who only understand Spanish. This young man is the son of the Summerdale church’s hispanic minister. They have song books with both English and Spanish, side by side.

One expression of Roberto’s gratitude and affection for his new family is this beautiful mural he painted behind the baptistery where he reenacted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

bapt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
This is a wonderful example of Christians seeing what God is doing and joining him in his mission. God’s agenda most often cannot be accomplished by plans and programs. By being faithful with what they have been given the church in Bayou La Batre has been able to touch Bolivia. Who knows what God will do in the lives of Roberto’s family and friends in Bolivia?

What is the lesson here? Become aware of what God is doing and join him in that mission. No program, no planning, is better than what God is already doing. When will you or your church have an opportunity to join God in his redemptive work. Your “Roberto” is waiting…

for Jesus,
Royce

Wanted: Youth Minister Summer Intern


Early each Sunday morning Daphne German and other members of the Hemley Rd church of Christ in Bayou La Batre, Alabama drive donated church vans all around the area picking up kids who are eager to attend church and Sunday school. By the dozens they come, Sunday a.m., Sunday p.m. and even on Wednesday nights they are there. They know they will be loved, taught about Jesus, and the right way to live… and be fed.

Bayou La Batre is a fishing community southwest of Mobile. Most of the residents are living way below the poverty level. But the children who have been touched by the people of the Hemley Rd congregation are full of hope. And, they need a leader. They need somebody to work with them this summer, to teach the Bible, to teach them life skills, and just to love them. Is that somebody you? Do you know a young man who might be interested?

The young man must have his own support. Last summer a young man was there for the summer and did a wonderful job. He was supported by his home church. They want and need a man who is able to teach the Bible, a leader, who is not afraid of hard work. If you know of such a young man who wants some experience as a youth minister, who is grace oriented and loves Jesus, please let me know. Or you can contact Mrs. Daphne German at daphnegerman@hotmail.com or call 251.609.0448.

The folks at Hemley Rd church are wonderful people. Both the White’s Ferry Road church of Christ in West Monroe, LA. and the El Campo church of Christ in El Campo, Texas are proud to be partners in the gospel with them. If you have a chance to visit  you will never forget them.

Why not ask your young people to pray regularly for the children of Bayou La Batre who need Christ, the love of others, and hope for the future? They need the prayers and your kids need the practice.

Finally, I know of no better place for your mission giving. Recently two generous congregations gave large gifts, almost enough for the first air conditioner for the church building, and another purchased a hemleyrd1baptistery. What great blessings and answers to prayer! But the needs are still great. The expenses of running 3 vans each service, utilities, insurance, and food for the children and the food pantry…. and the list goes on. Will you ask our Lord if you should help too?

Thanks in advance for your consideration of this worthy cause for Christ and those He loves.

His peace,
Royce